Spring is in the air and with this beautiful season follows the arrival of rattlesnakes. If you live in the US, you’ve probably had at least one experience with snakes, and if you live in the Southwest, you’ve probably had a few.
If you’re out hiking with your dog and stumble across a rattler, what is the best course of action? First off, you should have your dog on a leash at all times – even while on a trailhead. This will help, but oftentimes, it won’t be enough. Snakes have a tendency to lie across the trail or out in the open where they can absorb the heat from the sun. They can be difficult to see if you’re not paying attention, so try to always pay attention.
If you’re dog attacks or doesn’t see it in time, and is struck by the snake, try not to panic. Get out of there, and if possible, carry your dog out. Adrenaline will increase heart rate, which will increase the spread of poison. Chances are good that your dog was struck in the throat, and if that’s the case, you need to ensure he or she can breathe. The poison will cause intense swelling, which can close off your dog’s airway. Get him or her to the vet as soon as humanly possible. Do not stop and try to suck out the poison (it doesn’t work and can end up killing you). Just get to a vet.
Of course, the best thing to do is teach your dog to avoid snakes altogether. This can be done through a series of snake aversion training by a certified trainer.
There are many ways to train a dog to avoid snakes, but aversion therapy is one of the best I’ve seen. Yes, it uses static electricity collars. Yes, it’s difficult to watch. Yes, it will likely save your dog’s life in the long run. The good thing is that it only needs to be done once in most cases. It’s a lesson they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
A good trainer will teach dogs to avoid snakes using sight, sound and smell. Ensure that the trainer you use has a long line of references and positive feedback from previous clients. They will lead your dog through a “rattlesnake” course, using snakes that have been rescued from the backyards of terrified homeowners. The snakes should later be released into the wild – ensure you find a humane trainer who handles the snakes humanely.
Depending on the dogs reaction, there are several events that can occur. These depend on the training methods used. Snake aversion therapy is one of the few training events I would ever use a collar for, because it’s that important for the dog to associate a strong reaction with seeing or hearing or smelling a snake.
If you’re interested in taking your dog in for “snake aversion” therapy, check your local listings for a qualified, accomplished trainer who offers humane methods of training. Ensure that they treat the “volunteer snakes” well, and you’ll be in good shape.
It might just save your dog’s life....
ASPCA Poison Control Hotline
1-888-426-4435Note: There is a $60 charge for this service.
The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPPC)
1-800-548-24231-900-680-0000Note: If you call the 1-900 number, the charge is $20.00 for the first five minutes, then $2.95/minute thereafter. If you use the 800 number, the charge is $30.00 per case.